Why Learning French is Like A Diet
The best way to conceptualize your French-learning journey is to think of it like following a diet or getting in shape.
While speaking French is way cooler than rocking a six pack (maybe I’m a tiny bit biased) … they both speak to a similar principle.
Let me explain.
In the past 13 years of my career teaching French as a second language, I’ve seen all kinds of students:
- Highly motivated, eager and energetic students
- Timid students traumatized by mean teachers (more about that here)
- Overworked, tired and burnt out students
- Students with unrealistic expectations who want big and impossibly ambitious results after just one class
I’ve also met students who simply aren’t happy with their progress. Despite studying a lot both frequently and consistently, they still don’t see the results they desire.
All of these students go through a similar process.
In this article, I’ll compare learning French as a second language to following a diet.
Let’s go through the different stages…
Stage One: This is where you realize you want to be in shape. Maybe you want to get fit for a special occasion like a wedding, a vacation, a family reunion … or you just want to be healthy again with no specific deadline. Whatever the case may be, you know you want to be fit and you’re feeling motivated to reach your goals.
Stage Two: Research mode on! You start looking at different options to get your dream bod: private fitness coaches, home workout routines, gym memberships or group classes. The choices are endless and exciting.
Stage Three: Noting all the options available, you begin to compare them. Weighing the pros and cons of each you choose the best one based on the following factors:
- The crowd and the vibe
Stage Four: After you make your choice, you commit to a routine and go in with full force. You feel super motivated to start, energetic and optimistic. You prioritize your workouts in your schedule and actually look forward to them. That dopamine rush after each session feels awesome and you’re proud of yourself for getting such a strong start.
Stage Five: After the first couple weeks, you begin to feel tired. Your muscles are sore, as your body adjusts to the extra movement. You’re still motivated but it feels considerably hard to stick to the routine you’ve carved out. Despite this slow-down, you push through, reminded of your ultimate goal.
Stage Six: Your hard work is paying off and you’re starting to see results. You sleep more soundly at night, your skin looks clear and glowy and your mood is up all the time. Plus you’re no longer attracted to sweets and junk food anymore — the kryptonite to your fitness goals. You’re feeling all-around good.
Stage Seven: You start to crave your workouts. Missing out on them is not a viable option — you know how to show up for yourself and your regime has become successfully incorporated in your everyday routine. Working out and eating healthy is instinctual, when you miss a workout — you feel off. Being healthy is who you have become.
Just like following a workout regime or diet, your French-learning journey will go through similar stages.
First, comes the realization that you want to speak French (a stage you’ve already reached, since you’re reading this blog!). Common motivations could be for work, for family or just for yourself. Then comes the research on how to learn and the best options for your budget and schedule — should you take private lessons? Group classes? Self study? Weighing the options and being realistic with your schedule, routine and budget is paramount here.
Once you decide on a course of action, this is usually (and hopefully) followed by lots of enthusiasm, motivation and dedication until it becomes incorporated into your everyday life. Once you hit stage six — things feel awesome. You notice results, you’re growing and learning and you feel unstoppable. You impress yourself with your ability to comprehend, to communicate. You clearly see your growth, which feeds your motivation further.
Eventually, it just becomes second nature. Learning and speaking French is a part of your life, your routine, your schedule. Craving your progress and success, you speak and learn French regularly, because if you don’t, it just feels weird.
You’ve adopted this routine — and your French is through the roof.
On paper, yes. Once you have a goal and you create a pathway to meeting that goal — all it takes is your dedication, determination and showing up for yourself to achieve it.
But of course, life is seldom simple. What about all the in-between stages?
Like the unexpected interruptions that throw you off your schedule. Be it an extra project at work which makes you super busy, or a killer hangover which forces you to miss a workout, or a cold which derails your commitments. What about these life obstacles which might make you temporarily falter in your consistency?
Yes, some weeks might be more difficult than others. It’s important to make space for them in your routine.
If you come down with the flu and you can’t do your workout classes for one whole week. What do you do after? Do you give up on everything you’ve worked for, or do you pick up where you left off (once you get better, of course)? It might be hard to get back on the horse — but the horse and you have come so far, it seems ridiculous to give up at this point.
If you’re following a sugar-free diet but you had a slice of birthday cake last week, do you give up on your diet entirely? Or do you get back into the swing of things — eating healthy and mindfully.
Hopefully the answer for you is clear. Just like following a diet or a routine — do your best. Make concessions when you need to. We’re all human after all.
Once you are at the stage where your body is craving workouts, or where your mind wants to speak and learn French — it’ll be so much easier. Because at this stage, it’s all about upkeep.
Once you’ve successfully adopted this habit, this routine, this diet — you won’t look back. Or, if you do, it’ll just be to gawk at how amazingly far you’ve come.
Now let’s get back to the different types of students I’ve encountered.
Because every single type of student, whether they’ve been jaded by witchy teachers in the past or burnt out from overworking — will need to implement a regime and go through these stages to effectively learn French.
Regardless of your baggage, your past, or your future worries — becoming fluent in French requires the same sort of commitment as getting a six pack.
Stick to it, do the work and you will feel like a million bucks.
Which stage of your French journey are you? Drop a comment below — no matter where you’re at, I’m cheering you on!
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